CONTROVERSIAL Anglican Bishop of Harare Nolbert Kunonga has stirred a fresh wave of controversy after ordering the immediate transfer of three priests, a move being fiercely
resisted by Anglicans in the affected parishes. Members of the church have accused Kunonga of being driven by political motives.
Kunonga last week ruled that Lameck Mutete, the priest at St Paul’s parish in Highfield should transfer to Marondera at the end of this month, sparking demonstrations in the parish last Sunday.
Mass at St Paul’s was held under a cloud of uncertainty after members of the congregation had demanded a full explanation from the church executive regarding reports of Kunonga’s latest controversial move. The bishop made the ruling last Wednesday.
The mass only proceeded after the priest pleaded with the congregation for the issue to be discussed at the end. As soon as the church executive had notified the congregation about the bishop’s decision, anti-Kunonga demonstrations ensued.
Youths holding a placard inscribed, Kunonga wairasa, yawaronga haiite (Kunonga you have lost the plot, what you intend to do is impossible) toyi- toyed as they led in singing derogatory songs.
Jonathan Makoni, a parishioner at St Paul’s, took to the pulpit and addressed the congregation.
“We are not going to bow to Kunonga’s scheme aimed at bringing his puppet here,” said Makoni.
“We are demanding that Kunonga himself comes here and we tell him the truth. We can’t accept his political and poor ways of administration.”
Mutete refused to comment, referring all questions to the executive, which condemned Kunonga’s decision as strange.
Sources within the Anglican Church said that the bishop was targeting priests whom he deemed “politically incorrect” as well as those opposed to his leadership style. It is understood that two other priests, in Mabvuku and Marlborough, have also been ordered by Kunonga to transfer at very short notice. Anglicans at the two parishes have expressed their displeasure with Kunonga’s latest moves.
Kunonga couldn’t be contacted for comment as he was said to be out of his office last week. However, the diocesan secretary, who only identified himself as Gwedegwe said: “The diocese transfers priests whenever it feels. The demonstrations as well as explanations being given by parishioners are not important at all. That’s all.”
Meanwhile, sources said Anglicans from the three affected parishes are planning to collaborate with those from St Mary’s Cathedral in Harare to petition Kunonga over his leadership, or alternatively file a lawsuit against the bishop.
Kunonga has been involved in running battles with members of the church since he took over from Tim Neill as bishop in 2001.
Kunonga has also been in the news for his open support of the ruling Zanu PF party as well as government policies, especially the violent land seizures widely condemned both at home and abroad.
He is also the only man of the cloth to have been slapped with sanctions by the European Union last year.